Alternative Name: Africanized Honey Bee (less intimidating name don’t you think?) or Assassin Bee (If you live in Brazil).
Reasons To Fear the African Honey Bee
The killer bee (aka Africanized Honey Bee) is probably one of the most feared insects in the world. Unlike it’s relative, the European Honeybee, it is known for its extremely aggressive behaviour. They can chase and attack relentlessly in swarms if provoked and can inflict numerous stings. They are the insect you leave well alone unless you can run very, very fast!
The African Honey bees are territorial and don’t take too kindly to strangers getting in their way, especially when they have an important job to do. Honey Bees play a vital part in the pollination of food crops including fruit trees. In fact, if it wasn’t for the little Honey Bee we would be missing out on at least one-third of our daily diet. Which brings us back to our not so popular Killer Bee. It is probably fair to say the Killer Bees of all the Honey Bees have a behavioral problem. They are pushy, aggressive and unforgiving, just about everything you wouldn’t want in a bee.
Differences Between African and European Honey Bees :
Visually it is hard to tell the difference between an African and a European Honey Bee, they are virtually identical in appearance. However, when it comes to their behaviour they are so different. The African Honey Bee is extremely protective and aggressive and likes to swarm more frequently. They swarm as often as every six weeks, whilst the European bees swarm once a year. This is one of the main reasons why the African Bees are so feared, as people are likely to encounter them more often. The swarm usually occurs after a new queen bee has claimed ownership of the colony and the old queen flies off taking some of the bees with her.
Not So Fussy Habitat
It is usually the role of the scout bee to look for a suitable location for a new nest. The scout bee usually heads off prior to swarming. Sometimes the swarm will cluster on branches until they can agree on a new location. If you see bees hanging in a clump on a tree it would probably be a good time to run for it! If the bees aren’t happy with their new abode they may fly several km in search of the right one.
From all accounts, the African Honey Bees aren’t all that fussy about where to live or even the size of their home, for that matter. Don’t be too surprised if you find them setting up their new nest in an old tyre, letter box or even a discarded soft drink bottle. Not really the traditional beehive!
Step Away From The Bee!
The African Honey Bees, as we well know now, are protective of their nest. They like their space too, even if they aren’t too fussy about where they choose to live. They usually consider their home turf to be about a 100ft circumference from their nest. That is a pretty impressive ratio if they live in a soft drink bottle!
Not to alarm anyone but if you should happen to cross paths with a nest of Killer Bees the best advice is to RUN! If they spot you and decide to attack, run (faster). Try to protect your face and eyes. A good trick is to pull your shirt up over your head but make sure you can see where you are going. Tripping up during an attack isn’t pretty!. Try not to swing your arms around too much because bees are attracted to movement. Oh and please don’t try and kill them, the smell of crushed bees will attract more angry bees.
It is sounding like something out of a horror movie, but just keep running! Don’t stop running until you have found a safe location like a car or house. Don’t, and I repeat don’t, jump into the water. It may seem tempting, but the bees will just wait for you to surface.
If you can’t find any shelter, covering yourself with a blanket or clothing is your best alternative. It is more than likely when you have reached safety there will be a few determined bees still with you. Stay calm and try to get into a well-lit area, it will confuse them and they will fly to windows.
Now the fun bit begins. Removing the stingers. About the only saving grace about a Honey Bee is they can only sting you once (small consolation considering a swarm could consist of up to hundreds). Once the bee has used its sting, it dies, because some of its nerves and muscles are attached to the stinger. It is important to remove the stingers as soon as possible because they have a little sac of venom attached to it, which pumps the venom into your wound.
Don’t try pulling the stinger out with your finger or with tweezers as it will only squeeze more venom into your body. The best solution is to scrape the stinger sideways with your fingernail or any straight-edged object.
If you have removed more than 15 stingers or are having an allergic reaction to the stings, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. There have been 14 killer bee-related deaths in America.
Having survived the attack and patched up your wounds you will now have a great story to tell your friends!